It’s no secret that hog farms stink. Really bad. But what is newsworthy is a recent study which says the smell from these pigs is not just sickening, it could literally be making you sick. So much so, it’s being dubbed a new “public health crisis.”
Researchers at UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Public Health in North Carolina (the state where pig farming is the most prevalent) tested 100 residents who lived near a local hog farm. The participants were asked to sit outside (within smelling distance of the pig stench) twice a day for just 10 minutes at a time. Afterward, the scientists measured and recorded their blood pressure and surveyed participants for how they were feeling–stressed or annoyed. Levels of hydrogen sulfide were also measured in the air.
What they found has been classified as a “public health crisis.” Apparently, the toxins released by these farms contributed to an increase in diastolic blood pressure of nearly 2mmHg. Not only that, but when the concentration of hydrogen sulfide in the air reached 10 parts per billion, systolic blood pressure also increased by up to 3mmHg.
The authors concluded that the “transient plumes of odorant air pollution” emanating from hog farms “may be associated with acute blood pressure increased that could contribute to development of chronic hypertension.” In other words, not only is smelling the odor of hog farms gross, but it can have significant health implications.
The obvious solution here is to think that nearby residents in North Carolina should just move. No one has to be subjected to the smell and risks from pig farms, right? Well, that’s easier said than done. Most of these farms are concentrated in low income, mostly African American communities where the researchers say, “older housing and lack of central air condition could increase human exposure to air pollutants.” Picking up and moving is not always that easy for lower-income families. Neither is an air-purifying system.
All of this, as disturbing as it is, brings up another valid point: If just smelling the stench of pigs is so bad for our health, what happens when we actually eat them? Seems like another reason to consider going meatless. Or at least, pork-less.
What do you think?